Jason Smith has some competition at right tackle for the first time since being drafted in 2009 with the second overall pick. Usually injuries have kept him out of the lineup, bringing in his indirect competition which was usually just Adam Goldberg. Now Smith is feeling the heat from free agent addition Barry Richardson.
Head coach Jeff Fisher discussed the situation after practice on Wednesday.
"The more familiar he becomes with our system, the better he is," Fisher said of Richardson. :There's a lot of competition all over the roster and Barry's created some competition at that right tackle."
The truth is that Smith could really benefit from some competition, at least from an outside standpoint. In the past, his passion for the game has been questioned before. Whether that's true or not is difficult to assess from this outside vantage point. If that is true, the threat of sitting on the bench could provide an extra motivating factor.
Competition aside, neither Richardson or Smith are known for their shutdown blocking on the right side. Kansas City let Richardson walk, replacing him with free agent Eric Winston.
Richardson was the second-worst tackle in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus. He gave up 50 total pressures in 16 games last season. Smith gave up 15 in six games last season.
In a look at the situation on Thursday, Mike Sando had this quote from OL coach Paul Boudreau:
"His whole thing that he needs to work on the most is understanding angles in protection, understanding he has long arms but he doesn't use them and try to get his length back in protection," Boudreau said. "Try to use his hands. He wants to hit a guy all the time and you don't have to hit a guy in pass protection. You just have to stay in front of him. When he does it right, you have to really emphasize it on the tape."
Boudreau helped make the Atlanta Falcons line work with a seriously limited Sam Baker on the left side. They made it work by finding extra blockers to help, hiding his flaws. The Rams will have to pull in their extra blockers more often, whether Richardson or Smith are anchoring the right side.